Now this is what a really epic-scale super-hero comic book looks like. 😎

(Yeah, I know it came out two weeks ago, but I’m running a little behind. There’s been a lot of politics happening lately. So sue me.)

Notwithstanding the official title and cover dress, this story really bears no meaningful connection to Final Crisis. And that’s just fine. It’s a Legion story through and through, and it’s done in a grand style.

It’s not entirely without flaw, of course. Writer Geoff Johns clearly has an affection for and a strong understanding of the whole Legion concept, including its ultimately optimistic vision of the future… but characterization has always been one of his weaker points, and he doesn’t always quite capture the distinctive voices of everyone in this large cast. In particular, making Lighting Lad an arrogant, disheveled punk seems like a drastically wrong choice… and casting Garth’s friend and co-founder Cosmic Boy as his opposite number, with a tightly cropped hairstyle and an even more tightly wound personality, just underscores the wrongness. (But then, my favorite Legionnaire characterizations, the ones that I consider really spot-on, were from the Giffen/Bierbaum take on the team c. 1989-’92, and that’s the one version that’s been explicitly disavowed from this continuity. Sigh.)

And there are minor continuity glitches as well. R.J. Brande’s death in #1 was surprising, but given his personal history with Yorggian fever, which permanently froze him in his human appearance, there’s just no reason he should have reverted to Durlan form upon dying… and for that matter, the shape he reverted to isn’t his “true” (tentacled) Durlan form in the first place. Perhaps Johns has been reading too many Skrull stories from Marvel lately.

Let me further stipulate that I am decidedly not a fan of Superboy-Prime. I think he’s a one-note villain, an excuse for juvenile characterization and gratuitous gore, and he totally usurped the plot of Infinite Crisis to ruinous effect. Nevertheless, I’m not so much minding his presence here, as this story is clearly not about him—in fact, he’s just a means to an end for a much more interesting Big Bad, the Time Trapper. Johns has used him wisely so far, making SBP’s presence in the future a narrative device in the first issue, through which he (and thus readers as well) could be painlessly (re)introduced to an elaborate array of characters and settings that haven’t seen print for 20 years. (At least in this form. Geoff’s new “Unboot” version of the Legion is obviously not the original post-Crisis version, but it seems to share a very similar history up until (IMHO) about LSH v3 #27, from 1986—just before Validus was restored and Star Boy resigned.) Having served that expository purpose and then acted as catalyst for a gathering of more interesting and better-motivated villains, SBP is then shuffled gracefully into, if not the background, at least the middle distance.

Finally, just as a passing note, some of the the recent character redesigns by Gary Frank leave, well, quite a lot to be desired.

For all that quibbling, though, the book is quite simply a kick to read. It captures the sense of awe that reminds us why we grew to love comics in the first place. The second issue keeps up the momentum established in #1, as Superman and his childhood friends reunite to confront an escalating threat that seems genuinely daunting on both a cosmic and a personal scale, even while enmeshed in the fragile politics of a fragmented United Planets. Along the way there are plenty of Easter eggs for longtime fans, yet elegantly clear storytelling for newcomers as well. The attention to detail is extraordinary and appreciated, not only from Johns but from artist George Pérez, who was born to draw this kind of cast-of-thousands, intricate yet action-packed story. His work here is breathtaking.

(And if you don’t quite catch all the details? Annotations help.)

Given the cliffhanger in #1, it’s a bit of a surprise how long it takes in #2 for the “reboot” and “threeboot” version of the Legion to be summoned onstage, but the meeting when it happens is well worth the wait. In particular, the immediate (if frankly inevitable) conflict between three versions of Brainiac 5, as each tries to upstage his counterparts, is a sheer delight to behold. (It’s also interesting to note that the Threeboot team appears to be lacking any version of Mon-El. Are there only two of him?)

Things keep moving briskly even before the meeting comes to pass, however, as more characters are reintroduced and the stakes are raised. Another second-tier but deservedly fan-favorite character, Rond Vidar, meets his demise… which also facilitates a segue into the 31st-century status of the Green Lantern Corps, and allows Johns to bring in the Daxamite GL Sodam Yat (who he salvaged from a 20-year-old one-shot tale by Alan Moore and turned into a major player in last year’s big “Sinestro Corps” storyline). And we’re reminded what a fantastic roster of genuinely intimidating enemies the Legion has accumulated over the years, as almost all of them are on hand in this story.

Behind it all, meanwhile, lurks the Time Trapper, pulling the strings of almost everyone. This version of the Trapper is a cosmic force of some sort, bigger than any single individual. He apparently exists outside any single timeline (do they all converge at the End of Time?), and is privy to events even from histories that “no longer exist.” (How he uses the pronoun “I” to refer to actions by past incarnations of himself seems a bit dodgy, though, considered in that light.)

The Trapper, when last seen in LSH v4 #105, seemed most interested in “testing” the Legion (reboot version) by throwing them against various Legions (or duplicates thereof) from other histories, to prepare them for unspecified future challenges. His stated motivations now—to destroy or undo the Legion or Superman or both—seem fairly opaque, and I’m honestly skeptical that Geoff can cobble up some single rationale that explains all the Trapper’s past actions, even if the Trapper himself “remembers” them. However, I do hope and expect that there will be some interesting twist, something driving him beyond mere vindictiveness, revealed before this story is over.

There’s a lot going on here. It might even be called a bit of a hodgepodge. But I’m thoroughly enjoying it so far! L3W is not only an impressive Legion story, but a more fitting and evocative tribute to DC’s past epic Crises than the erratic Final Crisis itself. If the “tie-in” book winds up overshadowing the higher-profile project, though, so be it. I’m anxiously awaiting future issues.

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3 Responses to “Legion of Three Worlds #2”
  1. Andrew says:

    Nice number … It’s always interesting to see large numbers of heroes and bad guys coming together and capping each other.

  2. But here’s the thing: if he’s there, where did he come from?

    Think about it. We can identify several distinct versions of Mon-El:

    * There’s the post-Crisis, pre-ZH version, whose origins and entry to the Zone were set during Superman’s adult career, shortly after Invasion!. (Apparently no longer operative history; call it a hypertimeline.) He served with the FYL Legion, and ceased to exist along with them.
    * There’s the post-ZH, pre-IC version, also a contemporary of the adult Superman, sent into the zone by Kon-El, who served with the Reboot Legion (and appears in L3W #2).
    * There’s the post-IC version, who was sent into the Zone by a teenaged Clark Kent, and went on to serve with the new/old Unboot Legion.

    So, I can’t help wondering: is it possible that the Unboot version of Lar is the same one who served briefly with the Threeboot Legion? Remember, he was pretty amnesiac when they rescued him from the Zone. Furthermore, as you note, he wound up imprisoned there again… and that’s where his teammates found him at the start of L3W.

    If the Threeboot version is not this same post-IC Lar, though, then who would he be? We know of his future adventures, but have no present-day origin to connect him to.

  3. Tom Galloway says:

    Threeboot Mon-El did pop up at the end of Waid’s run, but got put back in the Phantom Zone. So he exists, but didn’t get pulled over by the ceremony.

    Or, maybe he did, and Perez just didn’t draw the lurking, unseen by everyone in the room, phantom?

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